It usually takes four seasons to finally understand everything a player can do. Can he score? Rebound? Can he absorb pressure? Is he a contact player, tough at the rim? Can he take physical punishment and still score? How is he built mentally? Does he shy away from moments of consequence or attack like a soldier? These are questions that make the NBA draft one of those puzzles you don’t really solve until years pass and players let you know who they are.
In the 2011 draft, Kyrie Irving was the number one pick and nothing in his career so far refutes that. He can drive to the rim and finish. He’s a quality perimeter scorer and a mid-range shooter. He can change directions at the rim and is explosive enough and athletic enough to bypass rim protectors. He is a face of a franchise…well sort of, until LeBron James came back to Cleveland. But, still, Kyrie is a true number one pick, a player who is arranging the building blocks for a Hall of Fame career punctuated with game winners.
But after the first pick and Kyrie Irving the draft gets particularly dicey. The last pick in the draft was Jimmy Butler. He was the 30th pick. 30th. Kawhi Leonard, 2014 Finals MVP, was traded on draft night by the Indiana Pacers. Imagine Leonard and Paul George in the same starting lineup.
Other curiosities: Klay Thompson, the second best scorer of the 2011 draft lottery class was taken 11th. He played college at Washington State and was a scorer there too. So what happened? Team scouts couldn’t stay up late and watch his games on the west coast? Tobias Harris was out of the lottery and he should have been in it. Same with Kenneth Faried who could jump out the gym and has the third most rebounds of anyone in this draft class. The second best rebounder in this draft class, Nikola Vucevic, was thought to be blah.
So if we were doing the 2011 draft lottery again, given what we know now, this is how it would look. (Actual draft selections in parentheses).
1. Kyrie Irving (Kyrie Irving): 355 games. 21.2 points. 5.5 assists. Four time All-Star. NBA Champion
2. Kawhi Leonard (Derrick Williams): 371 games. 15.7 points. 6.2 rebounds. Two Time All-Star. NBA Champion. NBA Finals MVP. Two Time Defensive Player of the Year.
3. Klay Thompson (Enes Kanter): 437 games. 18.8 points. 3.4 rebounds. Three Time All-Star. NBA Champion.
4. Jimmy Butler (Tristan Thompson): 371 games. 15.0 points. 4.8 rebounds. Two Time All-Star.
5. Kemba Walker (Jonas Valanciunas): 416 games. 18.0 points, 5.4 assists. All-Star.
6. Jonas Valanciunas (Jan Vesely): 335 games. 11.5 points. 8.5 rebounds.
7. Tristan Thompson (Bismack Biyombo): 440 games. 9.5 points, 8.7 rebounds. NBA Champion.
8. Enes Kanter (Brandon Knight): 420 games. 11.1 points, 6.7 rebounds.
9. Nikola Vucevic (Kemba Walker): 376 games. 14.5 points, 9.8 rebounds.
10. Kenneth Faried (Jimmer Fredette): 395 games. 12.0 points. 8.6 rebounds.
11. Tobias Harris (Klay Thompson): 355 games. 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds.
12. Reggie Jackson (Alec Burks): 383 games. 12.2 points, 3.1 assists.
13. Chandler Parsons (Markieff Morris): 365 games. 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds.
14. Markieff Morris (Marcus Morris): 422 games. 11.8 points, 5.6 rebounds
Most Minutes Played:
1. Klay Thompson
2. Kemba Walker
3. Tristan Thompson
4. Kyrie Irving
5. Brandon Knight
Best 3- Point Shooters (%)
1. Klay Thompson, 41.8%
2. Kawhi Leonard, 39.3%
3. Kyrie Irving, 38.0%
4. Chandler Parsons, 37.5%
5. Alec Burks, 36.1%
1. Tristan Thompson (3,809)
2. Nikola Vucevic (3,689)
3. Kenneth Faried (3,393)
4. Jonas Valanciunas (2,840)
5. Enes Kanter (2,830)
Most Points Scored
1. Klay Thompson, (8,208)
2. Kyrie Irving, (7,536)
3. Kemba Walker, (7,479)
4. Kawhi Leonard (5,817)
5. Brandon Knight (5,789)
1. Kemba Walker, (2,230)
2. Kyrie Irving, (1,966)
3. Reggie Jackson, (1,657)
4. Brandon Knight, (1,619)
5. Chandler Parsons (1,072)
photo via llananba